UTAH DROUGHT

Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell reach multi-year highs, but one is already losing water

Jun 27, 2024, 1:58 PM

Great Salt Lake...

View from Great Salt Lake Marina on August 27, 2023. (Adam Small, KSL NewsRadio)

(Adam Small, KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY— Mother Nature has been very kind to Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell the last two winters.

After bottoming out to an record low in late 2022, Great Salt Lake reached its highest level since 2017 earlier this month.

Lake Powell fell to a record low 22% capacity in March of 2023. Today, it’s now just over 41% full, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources.

The nation’s second-largest reservoir nearly doubled its storage in just over a calendar year.

An up-and-down pattern

However, Great Salt Lake has already begun losing water to the summer heat and upstream water diversions.

Tim Davis, Deputy Great Salt Lake Commissioner, told KSL NewsRadio the lake’s level normally falls 2 to 2.5 feet every year from late spring to early fall.

But, in just the last three weeks since Great Salt Lake peaked at 4,195 feet, it’s gone back down roughly six inches to 4,194.4 feet, according to the latest measurements.

For context, the lake peaked at roughly 4,194 feet in 2023 and had barely lost any water by this time.

But, Davis said last year was an anomaly for the evaporation timeline. That’s because of the record winter that preceded it. Additionally, the Union Pacific Causeway berm, which controls flow from the lake’s north and south arms, was closed.

“That kept more water in the lake [and]… the south arm filling later than average,” Davis said. “This seems fairly average, might even be a little better than average this year.”

Davis said Great Salt Lake normally peaks around May 1. Last year, the peak didn’t come until well into June. Even this year, the lake’s levels didn’t peak until the first few days of June.

What’s next for Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell?

Davis said the lake will likely fall another two feet from where it is today. If that happens, it’ll sit just a few inches higher than where it was in late 2023 when rain and snow began to replenish it.

Davis and other water managers are still calling on Utahns to conserve what water they can. He said they are still in active talks with other major water users in the Great Salt Lake Basin to see what ways they can all conserve water.

“We still have a lot of work to get the lake up to a healthy range and sustain it there,” Davis said. “It will take every sector and everyone in the basin.”

Lake Powell will likely start receding in the coming months as water is transferred from Utah and the Northern Colorado River Basin states to the Southern Basin.

“Conservation is no longer just a warm, dry year thing that we have to do,” Davis said.

Read more news about the Great Salt Lake from KSL NewsRadio.

Adam Small is a reporter for KSL NewsRadio. He primarily reports on Great Salt Lake and Natural Resources. Follow him on Facebook and X.

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Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell reach multi-year highs, but one is already losing water